If you’re fortunate to own waterfront property, why not consider adding a waterfront deck!

And if you’re anything like our family, you’ll quickly discover how it becomes everyone’s favorite gathering spot for friends and family.

waterfront deck with privacy fence and sun canopy
Our new favorite waterfront gathering location

After all, who doesn’t enjoy sitting at the lakefront soaking up the early sunrise with a cup of Joe, or ending a busy day toasting a beautiful sunset?

Not only will a waterfront deck give you a place to relax and soak up the sun, but it is sure to increase the value of your property.

In this blog post, we’ll show you how one of our Today’s Cottage Living members repurposed existing building materials to create a beautiful lakefront deck for less than $1,000!

As a property owner with a passion for country living, I’ve covered a variety of topics and written several articles on everything from best firewood practices, and wood stoves, to DIY construction projects. This guide combines my years of hands-on experience, together with extensive research from experts on the topic to help ensure a well-rounded perspective.

Let’s Get Into It!

A Bit of Background (And a lesson in repurposing!)

As a loyal reader of Today’s Cottage Living, I was thrilled when I was asked to share how I was able to create a lakefront oasis for our family for very little money, and how you may be able to do the same if you have under-used building materials on your property.

Most of the building materials used for this waterfront deck came from our existing wood shed that had to be removed due to strict building codes in our county that restrict the number of outbuildings to three structures with roofs.

When we applied for a building permit for an extension to our cottage (roof #1) the local inspector discovered we have a Bunkie (roof #2), storage shed (roof #3), and wood shed (roof #4).

Therefore we had to decide which out building had to go and because we recently replaced our wood stove with a propane fireplace, the choice was obvious.

You can see the actual woodshed we carefully disassembled for this new waterfront deck here in this article. And you can see I even used a tarp as a roof in the hope that a tarp wouldn’t be considered a 4th “roof”. But no such luck…

Therefore, the size of this lakefront deck was primarily dictated by the size of the previous wood shed. And you will see how we made use of the 4″x4″ vertical framing posts to create a timber frame style deck with semi-open railings.

We also attached an existing small deck that was used as a landing for the ramps at the shoreline. This small deck was attached to the new lakefront deck to provide additional square footage to the overall size and make use of the materials.

With the price of (post-pandemic) lumber, every little bit helps!

The overall result has been a tremendous hit with friends and family and instantly became our new favorite spot to enjoy the waterfront.

Now we rarely sit out on the dock as we once had because this lakefront deck offers greater privacy from neighboring docks, wind protection, and thanks to our new (Amazon) sun shade, protection from the sun!

Deck Framing

Play around with the optimum angle/positioning while it’s still a lightweight frame that’s relatively easy to move.

Building your new lakefront deck starts with positioning the floor joists and outer frame facing the optimum direction along the edge of the shoreline.

This will be the last time you’ll want to reposition the deck before it gets too heavy to maneuver when it’s fully built so test a few angles now to be sure you’re happy!

Also, be aware of crucial setback regulations from your property line. In my case, I had to be 21 feet from my side property line to the lakefront deck.

Determining the ideal height of your new lakefront deck can be tricky if your water levels fluctuate throughout the year.

Our lake serves as one of many lakes that act as water reservoirs feeding the Trent-Severn Waterway (TSW) in Ontario. As such the TSW controls the damn on each reservoir lake to release water from the lakes as deemed necessary to maintain water levels within the Trent-Severn Waterway.

As a result, our average water level peaks in May, and drops an average of 6.5′ by the end of October. So in our case, it’s very important to ensure our deck height is well above the high water levels.

To be 100% sure you’re building your fixed height waterfront deck at a height that will allow for the MAXIMUM water level, I recommend referring to a local government website/resource that offers water level statistics such as this one.

Using our lake as an example, the maximum high water level recorded is a full 1.5′ higher than the average high water mark. That’s an extra 18″ above average!

Deck Support Posts

Whenever I build a fixed height structure in the water, whether it’s a deck or dock ramps, I always use galvanized steel dock legs on concrete pads.

Steel dock legs allow me to quickly adjust the height and make leveling the surfaces much easier.

However, for this lakefront deck, I also incorporated 4″x4″ pressure-treated posts to create a timber frame look and additional stability.

Deck Post Options

How I Lift & Level My Ramps & Decks

Farm Jack 48″ Utility Jack

I purchased two of these 48″ Farm Jack lifts for lifting and leveling my decks and fixed dock ramps. These have been an indispensable tool over the years as it seems each year our ramps need a fine-tuning level due to settling and waves pushing against the dock.

You may be able to rent Farm Jacks from your local hardware store.

Galvanized Steel Post Leg Hardware

In addition to (1 11/16″ OD) galvanized steel dock posts, we used the galvanized steel hardware below to attach the steel post legs. These items were purchased at Home Depot.

Galvanized Steel Post Bracket
Galvanized Post Leg Base
Galvanized bolts, nuts, and lock washers – sized for your framing

Important Note; Galvanized steel posts used for marine applications ARE NOT the same as those used for chain link fences. Marine posts are made from heavier gauge steel that can withstand the pressure from the tightening bolts used to secure the dock to the steel posts.

Chain link posts will compress from the bolt pressure and will not provide the same overall stability for the decking.

Deck Boards

Once the framing and flooring joists were completed, the decking boards were installed.

The type of deck boards are called 5/4″ x 6″ pressure treated (PT) boards, available in a variety of lengths from your local building supplier.

Be sure to use quality deck screws. I like to use #10 x 2 1/2″ Red Deck Screws for my pressure-treated decking.

For a quick guide on how to properly install pressure-treated deck boards, you can check out this YouTube video.

Deck floor completed with shoreline ramp
Deck floor with dock ramps attached

Dock Ramps & Rope Railing Posts

With the new lakefront deck in place, it was time to hook up the ramps that lead to the floating dock.

You can see how I crafted custom 4″x4″ railing posts that will be used to hold a Manila Rope as the handrail.

Attaching the ramps to the new deck
Concrete pads are used for ramps and deck posts

Deck Railing

To repurpose the side wall boards from the wood shed I built two 36″ high railings for the sides of the new lakefront deck.

The four horizontal boards are the same 5/4″ x 6″ deck boards, capped with a 2’x4′ handrail. I left a 4″ gap between boards to keep an open feeling and clear visibility to the kids in the water.

Everyone loves how this semi-private railing creates a cozy sitting area – plus it serves as a great safety feature for an elevated platform.

Railing with 4″ openings

Sun Sail for Sun Protection

Rather than buying a large umbrella for sun protection, we wanted a more stable solution that can withstand heavy winds and remain in place for the entire season so we opted to install a rectangular sunshade canopy sail.

We purchased this sail (below) from Amazon. The vendor’s brand name (manufacturer) of this particular sun shade is Fly Hawk. This vendor offers a variety of sizes and colors to choose from – we chose a gray sun sail for our waterfront deck.

Sun Protection from Sun Sail

What Size Sun Shade Sail to Buy?

Our lakefront deck platform dimension is approximately 13′ x 16′ so we purchased a sail measuring 10′ x 13′. Allow at least 1-foot on each corner when measuring your canopy size.

These sails have curved sides with each corner reaching out towards the mounting point. There is a nominal stretch to consider so allow for at least 2 feet on each length and width.

Sail Mounting Hardware & Position

Adjustable Turnbuckle – Upper mount position
Adjustable Turnbuckle – Lower mount position

When I first mounted the sail to verify the size and centering positioning of the sail within the overall space, I used ropes to hold the sail in place.

With even a slight wind during this process, I quickly learned how much tension was going to be required to hold the sail in place. (Now I know why they call them a “sail” sunscreen!)

Because canopy sunshade sails are generally smaller in length and width than the actual deck size, using wire rope in combination with adjustable turnbuckles will give you the ability to custom fit your sail to your deck requirement.

I would not count on the turnbuckles to provide the necessary length to fit the sail securely to each mounting point eye hook. There are only a couple of inches of adjustment on a standard 6″ turnbuckle, so the wire rope is used in combination with turnbuckles to give you the fit you’ll need.

The turnbuckles do a great job of providing the required tension on the sail, which is considerable – our sail manufacturer specified up to 70 lbs. of tension.

About Turnbuckles

Before installing the turnbuckles be sure to adjust the two hooks at the maximum opening distance to allow for tightening the turnbuckles.

I found that the 6″ turnbuckles I used offered about 2″ of adjustment and by the time I got my sail good and taught I’d used over 50% of the available adjustment.

And after the sail had been installed for a few days I found it necessary to readjust the turnbuckles to tighten the sail again. Now I’ve used most of the 2″ of available adjustment in each turnbuckle.

Allow for Rain Shedding

The canopy sail vendor recommends mounting the canopy with a 2″ slope between two opposing ends to allow any rainwater to run off the canopy.

If you look closely at the two photos above showing the front and rear mounting turnbuckles and eye hooks, the stainless steel, heavy-duty eye hooks are mounted at different heights into the 2″x6″ framing boards.

Types of Turnbuckle Eye Hooks

Because the overhead canopy structure was built using 4″x4″x8′ pressure treated posts with connecting 2″x6″ (PT) horizontal connecting boards, 3″ heavy-duty stainless steel eye hooks were used to help secure the 2″x6″ boards to the 4″x4″ posts, thanks to the length of the eye hooks.

Another great eye hook option would be heavy-duty Square Eye Hooks with steel pads as shown below.

Whichever option you choose, remember to create a slope in the canopy to help prevent water from pooling in the canopy.

Wire Rope

We used wire rope to connect the turnbuckles to the eye hooks to ensure the sail will stand up to heavy winds.

There are two types of wire rope fasteners to choose from for binding the rope back on itself to create the loop. One type uses a crimping tool, the other uses small U-shape threaded posts and small bolts.

I chose the bolt type because they are easier to use when making adjustments to the length of the wire rope. For example, during the initial setup when I was trying to determine the length for each of the four corner support wires, I could quickly adjust the wire lengths without having to install new crimp-style wire locks.

LED Solar Lighting

Today’s solar LED string lights create an unbeatable ambiance at a low cost – plus they are easy to install! For less than $50 you can have an automated dusk-to-dawn LED lighting system to expand your time on the deck into the evening hours.

Because our lakefront deck incorporates overhead beams we were able to attach the LED string lights onto the bottom edge of the beams. This made installation super easy.

Add a string of LED lights to enjoy your deck into the evening hours
LED Solar Panel means no electrical cords are required!

Solar Panel

The small solar panels that are included with today’s LED string lights provide all the “juice” you’ll need to keep your LED lights glowing all night.

Be sure to mount the solar panel in a location with a clear opening to the sky and pointed it towards the direction of the sun as it passes overhead from east to west.

Sun Sails create the ideal canopy when you’re looking for sun protection.

Bonus Bench

To take repurposing to the next level I made use of our old fir beams that were used to support our old porch ceiling. These beams looked like they would make ideal seating surfaces for guests, or could be ideal for extra counter space.

Using extra 8″x8″ offcuts used in our new addition, I cut 24″ lengths for the post leg supports and notched out the legs at 18″ to create mounting surfaces used to bolt the leg posts onto the side of the deck.

I used two 1/2″ x 5″ galvanized carriage bolts with galvanized washers, lock washers, and bolts to secure each leg post onto the deck.

The bench serves as over-flow seating…
Or it makes a great servery surface

If you’d like to see how I created the notches in the leg posts, I followed the two methods shown in this YouTube video. After testing the two methods I preferred the 1st method. I found the 2nd method took longer and has more challenging to end up with smooth inside surfaces.

Final Thoughts

Although the original inspiration for building this lakefront deck came out of making use of existing building materials, I highly recommend building your very own lakefront deck, even if you don’t have materials on hand – or the time to build it yourself.

Our family and friends are thrilled with the results with the top reviews being:

  • Privacy: we prefer being tucked away vs. out on the dock
  • Cozy: the railing and LED lights create an inviting and intimate environment
  • Sun Protection: the sun shade sail is a welcome reprieve on sunny days
  • Waterfront Location: being on the water is why we chose a waterfront property!

By using the deck dimensions and materials shown within this article you can ask your local building supplier for a quote on materials to build your own version of this deck. Or better yet, ask your local contractor to give you a finished price.

Either way, I hope you found this article helpful and that inspires you to build your lakefront deck.

PS – I’d like to thank my future son-in-law Nathan for all his help in building this project.

Thank you for sharing your time with us at Today’s Cottage Living!

Disclosure: TodaysCottageLiving.com participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for publishers to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Greg Jones

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